May 23, 2007

New Principal for Catalina Foothills High


The new principal at Catalina Foothills High School will be Loren Rathert, the interim principal at Madison LaFollette High School in Wisconsin.

The district's Governing Board voted unanimously to approve Rathert's contract, which includes a $100,000 salary. Rathert was not at the meeting.

Rathert will take over as principal of the school July 1, one day after Wagner Van Vlack's 10-year tenure at the school ends. Van Vlack said he is leaving the school to pursue other opportunities.

"I was most impressed that he came down during our spring break to visit our school" before being named a finalist, Van Vlack said Wednesday. "He came down specifically to do his homework on our school, and that fact speaks very well of him and his dedication to our school and community."

Rathert was picked by Superintendent Mary Kamerzell after she spent three days with the three candidates for the job last week. The candidates met with school, district and community groups while in Tucson.

The other candidates considered were Sunrise Drive Elementary Principal Julie Sherrill and Mark Neish, principal of Rigby High School in Rigby, Idaho.

Rathert did not return phone calls by press time Wednesday.

The board praised the district for its comprehensive interview process, which included reference checks, public forums, meetings with parents and members of the school's Student Council and tours of the school site.

"That makes us as board members feel real confident," said member Mary Lou Richerson.

Rathert has been interim principal at two Madison schools in the past six years. In 2001, he took over Madison West High School, a school of about 2,300 students, staying there until 2004. Rathert has been working as interim principal at Madison LaFollette, a public school of about 1,600 students, for one year. He replaced John Broome, who resigned after four months, according to media reports.

Before that, he spent five years in Madison as principal and administrator. His move to Tucson ends 28 years in education in Wisconsin.

Rathert comes to Catalina Foothills High at a time when it is reforming its curriculum to conform to 21st-century learning.

He also takes over a year after district and school officials began an extensive drug-awareness campaign. In September 2005, three female students were arrested for heroin possession at the school. Since then, the district has held public forums, conducted surveys and planned multimedia anti-drug campaigns.

The school is also facing federal reprimand after it did not make Adequate Yearly Progress for the first time this year because special-education students were allowed to use calculators on the AIMS test, which invalidated their scores.

"This gentleman is obviously welcoming those challenges we're presenting to him," said board member Alice Catallini.

* Contact reporter Jeff Commings at 807-8431 or [email protected]

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